Discipline is not a choice.

By Dickson Tumuramye

Oftentimes, our children can choose to be very stubborn or disobedient, and as a parent, you feel there is nothing more you can do for this child.

You have possibly gone the extra mile to press this child to be compliant and respectful, but nothing seems to change.

Other children behave like kings or bosses before their parents. What they want is what a parent will do. A parent now dances to the tunes of the child. Some parents think they should not exasperate their children, so they give them all the freedom to do as they please. They handle them like glass.

It is now the child who advances the rules and conditions that a parent in this case must follow, or else the child throws tantrums.

Before you know it, such a child grows up with a lot of self-entitlement, and by the time you try to ‘tame’ them, it is too late.

As they say, charity begins at home. This child, too, needs to be well trained to be disciplined. Have you ever visited homes where a parent asks a child to do something and the child remains adamant? The parent, therefore, decides to do it herself. Some fear confronting their children, and they prefer to keep peace rather than annoy them. They even go the extra mile by begging the child to forgive them.

In other families, you visit, and the children are all over the place, grabbing whatever you are holding in your hands without seeking permission. Some do not even greet visitors. You will find them watching television, and they will not be bothered that there is a visitor in the house.

Others can even come and sit next to you without saying ‘hello, even in the presence of the parents. Then you will see how the parent is quick to defend the child, even when you did not comment.

Discipline is teaching your child responsible behaviour and self-control. You set rules and regulations that are to be followed all the time. This calls for consistency and patience while doing your part to ensure your children behave well both in private and in public.

It is at this level that a child learns to be responsible, make informed decisions, and take action for his or her choices. The child should be taught about choices and the consequences of any action or decision taken.

Effective communication helps both of you understand each other with clarity and purpose. The moment you communicate anything to your child, you should expect positive feedback. Short of that, you need to be inquisitive about why your communication is taken for granted. You should not be on the side of the child all the time, even when more than one person comments on his or her bad behaviour. Yes, you know your child better than everyone else. But can you pause and ask yourself why everyone comments negatively about your child and seek positive ways to handle his or her behaviour?

Why do you choose to think everyone hates your child, including your spouse, relatives, and friends? When people say something about your child, don’t be too defensive. Take action where necessary.

Always supervise and monitor what your children do, both in your presence and absence. Do you know that there are children who mistreat your househelp in your absence but, in your presence, pretend to be very good? Do you know that your child might be drinking alcohol or abusing drugs when they are away from home?

Check to see who your child’s friends are. It is said, “Tell me your friends, and I will tell you who you are”. Don’t be deceived; bad company corrupts good behaviour (1 Corinthians 15:33), and the reverse is true. Therefore, get to know who hangs around with your son or daughter all the time. What kind of friends does s/he have in the community, at church, and at school, and what activities do they like to engage in? Take time to interact with them, and where possible, get to know their parents.

Never stop your children’s friends from visiting you, no matter what or regardless of their sex. This is where you can easily identify their characters and make informed comments.

Teach them self-expression and respect in public. They should know how to conduct themselves well before others, including their peers and elders. They should learn empathy skills and be kind to everyone without being taken advantage of.

Remember to always discipline your child when he or she is in the wrong. It is not a choice for a child to follow but also for a parent to instill it all the time. The one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).